UNION, NJ — Karesha Joseph proved to be among the best rebounders in the Union County Conference’s Valley Division last year, grabbing a total of 129 in 21 games to lead the Union High School Farmers girls basketball team in that category.
With last year’s top three scorers — Paris Jones with 137 points, Siani Garcia with 136 and Inayah Muhammad with 126 — lost to graduation, Joseph’s teammates will look to her for important senior leadership.
Union produced an overall 9-12 finish a year ago, winning nine games for the second straight season after capturing only one victory the year prior. That’s a large upgrade since going almost winless three years ago.
“We did some good things, but we’re still not even close to where we want to be,” head coach Omar Wright said.
Union managed to win one Union County Tournament game, defeating Rahway High School 34-27. The Farmers were then matched up with top-seeded New Providence High School in the next round, falling 65-25.
New Providence went on to win the UCT for only the second time and the first time since 1990. The Pioneers went on to finish 26-3 after reaching the Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional state championship game. They won the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division perfect at 12-0.
Wright knew that his Farmers were up against it versus a power such as New Providence. The Pioneers rebounded from an uncharacteristic 6-20 finish in 2017-2018.
Qualifying for the North 2, Group 4 playoffs for the first time in five years, Union played at higher-seeded Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School and was defeated 66-26 in what was its season finale. Scotch Plains–Fanwood had its ups and downs the past several seasons.
“We’re going to prepare and hopefully gain something from playing those really good teams,” Wright said.
Joseph also led Union in blocks with 18, and she had 42 steals. Paris led in steals with 43 and assists with 39.
Wright said of senior point guard Joseph: “She has really good court vision and can dribble the ball well. I’m excited for her. She can also pass the ball well and is a pretty good shooter.”
Of senior guard Dasia Edmond, he said: “She’s a strong player who is capable of attacking and finishing at the rim. She can also shoot.”
Wright said of sophomore center Brielle Hayford: “She’s young but is energetic and physical. She played some varsity last year. She can finish at the rim and has a nice midrange shot.”
On junior forward Samantha Turner, he said: “She’s very athletic and can run up and down the court really well. She rebounds well and during the summer worked on her midrange jumper.”
Union was only 3-5 after falling to division foe Abraham Clark High School of Roselle 58-35 on Saturday, Jan. 22. The Farmers then went on to win six of their next 11 games before concluding with losses to Roselle again in division play and Scotch Plains–Fanwood in the states.
One of Union’s best non-wins was a 57-44 loss to one of the elite teams in the Watchung Division, the Summit Hilltoppers. The Farmers also played Mountain Division squad Johnson tough before falling to the Crusaders 43-30.
In addition to its UCT victory over Linden, Union’s other nondivision triumph was at Millburn 28-16. That was the least number of points the Farmers gave up last year.
Union finished 7-4 in the UCC’s Valley Division, placing third in the standings behind Dayton and Rahway.
Offensively challenged, according to Wright, Union’s biggest output last year was 51 points in both division wins over Roselle Park. Both games ended in 51-24 Union victories.
“We hope to develop more girls so that we have some good players coming off the bench,” Wright said.
Union was able to play some home games in the school’s smaller gym, but it wasn’t the same as playing in Louis J. Rettino Gymnasium, which was ravaged by heavy rainfall in September 2021.
“We dealt with some adversity, and hopefully that helped us grow in a way,” Wright said.
With the Rettino Gymnasium back for all Union winter teams, the Farmers have their first three games of the season all scheduled to be played at home.
Union plays at home vs. Valley Division rival Rahway High School on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 4 p.m.
Division games continue at home vs. Abraham Clark High School on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 4 p.m. and then against Roselle Park High School on Thursday, Dec. 22, also at 4 p.m.
“We’re excited to be back playing on our own home court,” Wright said. “It gives us an opportunity to space out the court more.”
The Farmers have made great strides the past two seasons under Wright’s guidance. They seek to keep the momentum going in 2022-2023.
“Our goal this year is to win our division,” Wright said. “We want to see improvement from our younger girls. We don’t want to have to start over next year.”
Wright said that Union’s brand of basketball includes the Farmers being very “physical and skilled.”
“That’s what we really worked on in the offseason,” Wright said.
Union Farmers girls basketball
• Karesha Joseph, senior point guard.
• Dasia Edmond, senior guard.
• Brielle Hayford, sophomore center.
• Samantha Turner, junior forward.
• Kiera Miller-Peoples, sophomore.
• Gabrielle Aguilar, sophomore.
• Edlyn Noel, senior.
• Aanesti Peterman, sophomore.
• Thursday, Dec. 15: vs. Rahway High School, 4 p.m.
• Tuesday, Dec. 20: vs. Abraham Clark High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, Dec. 22: vs. Roselle Park High School, 4 p.m.
• Wednesday, Dec. 28: tournament at Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, 10 a.m.
• Friday, Dec. 30: tournament at Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, TBD.
• Tuesday, Jan. 3: vs. Hillside High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, Jan. 5: at Linden High School, 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Jan. 7: at David Brearley High School, 10:30 a.m.
• Tuesday, Jan. 10: at Rahway High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, Jan. 12: at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Jan. 14: at Elizabeth High School, noon.
• Thursday, Jan. 19: at Roselle Park High School, 5:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Jan. 21: at Abraham Clark High School, 10 a.m.
• Tuesday, Jan. 24: at Hillside High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, Jan. 26: vs. Linden High School, 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Jan. 28: vs. Cranford High School, 1 p.m.
• Monday, Jan. 30: vs. Somerville High School, 4 p.m.
• Wednesday, Feb. 1: vs. David Brearley High School, 4 p.m.
• Monday, Feb. 13: vs. Millburn High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, Feb. 16: vs. South Plainfield High School, 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Feb. 18: at Irvington High School, 11:30 a.m.
Union County Conference
girls basketball alignment
for 2022-2023 season
Watching Division, seven schools
Cranford, New Providence, Oak Knoll, Roselle Catholic, Scotch Plains–Fanwood, Summit, Westfield.
Defending champion: New Providence.
Mountain Division, seven schools
Jonathan Dayton, Elizabeth, Governor Livingston, Arthur L. Johnson, Kent Place, Plainfield, Union Catholic.
Last year’s champion: Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
Valley Division, seven schools
David Brearley, Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Abraham Clark, Roselle Park, Union.
Last year’s champion: Jonathan Dayton.